Core, What’s It Good For

What is your Core?

Whether you have been training at AMP for a while, just started or attend our bootcamps, you have no doubt heard your trainer talk about your core. Have you ever wondered what it is exactly and why we need a strong core? Unless there has been time to go into detail you may still be wondering this. So lets begin.

What is considered to be your core?
When most people are called upon to name the core muscles most think of the abs or abdominals and while that is true, your core consists of many muscles beyond your that. Other main core muscles include the obliques, transverse abdominals, diaphragm, multifidus, the pelvic floor and many more muscles. An easy way to remember which muscles are necessary for core strength, is to imagine the human body cut off at the elbows and knees. Yes, all of these muscles are either the core directly or muscles that assist the core. Now, you can see why the core is so important. It is such a large portion of our bodies and an integral one as well.

How does the core work?
These muscles work together through isometric exercises as well as a trunk stabilizer through compound movements. The core muscles are quite unique as respects other muscle groups. While most muscles groups work to build force and resist force in one plain of movement, the core has to produce strength for the isometric exercises and in contrast also has to be able to control strength through the compound movements, in three plains of movement! In isometric exercises such as a plank the core group of muscles is producing force and stabilizing your body. However, while performing a compound movement, such as a squat, the core muscles are not only stabilizing but they also working to transfer force through the body in that compound movement. If our core is not functioning properly in a plank you would be unable to keep a flat back and your belly would sag toward the floor thus resulting in eventual injury and pain. If we look at the squat, when the core is functioning properly and to its full potential the squat is a smooth motion. Once there is dysfunction, your upper body will cave and you are left bent over and your back rounded, you then have to compensate to get back to your starting position and that too can be hazardous.

How can the core become stronger?
You need to crawl before you walk. Start with the basics. To guarantee core stability and strength we need to begin with static activities. These can range from a simple plank, to a side plank and once those are mastered you can begin to move on to exercises such as the dead-bug and bird-dog. Protecting and strengthening the musculature around the spine is essential for preventing injury and excelling in physical activity. Once stability has been gained, you can then move on to strengthening your core through more dynamic movements. Be sure that whatever the movement, a squat, a crawl, a deadlift or a press, that your core be braced and keep tension through the movement. Constant practice and effort will help you gain stability and strength.

Next time you are attempting an exercise or movement, remember to brace your core and use it everyday. Not only will it make you stronger for your workouts but it will make you stronger for life.


That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger

Strength is relative

      “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” We have all heard this quote in one form or another. What Friedrich Nietzsche was conveying to his audience is this fact, that we have the ability to gain strength through what we experience in life.
    We have all had to overcome challenges, adversity, physical set backs, perhaps even oppression. What was the outcome? Well, you are still standing here today. Not only that; you have learned from the experience and grown. You have now become stronger due to the circumstances you endured and survived. What was it that helped you get through, in spite of your situation at the time? A friend, a mantra, a goal. Every day is a new opportunity to become stronger; mentally and physically. It may not be the largest obstacle you have to overcome in your life, but everyday we are faced with an experience, not matter how small, to push beyond boundaries or limitations that we may have thought impossible years, weeks or even days ago.
    The same holds true of your physical strength. Just as you adapt to overcome difficult & challenging times, your body adapts to challenges as well. Think about that aforementioned quote again. At one point in your life you were faced with a physical task that you thought impossible. You relied on a friend for inspiration, repeated a mantra to yourself, or looked forward to a goal that you have had in mind and you tackled that challenge. What was the result? You became stronger for it. Now look back a week, month, year ago. Are you able to accomplish things you were unable to back then? What were your goals? Perhaps it’s was lifting more weight, being able to make it through a full hour bootcamp, or being able to crawl on the ground with your kids or grand-kids with ease. Think back and see how much you have grown. That is strength!
     How can we combine the two, physical and mental strength, to benefit your performance in the gym and in life. By committing yourself to give 100% of your effort every time you walk into the gym, you can greatly increase your strength. Take the plank for instance, next time you have to perform a plank don’t just pop off the ground and rest on your elbows and toes until the time is up. Raise yourself into the position, make sure you have good form, and tighten every muscle in your body. EVERY MUSCLE. You should feel as though your eyeballs are going to pop out of your head you are so tense. Think of bringing your elbows to your toes and go through a checklist of the muscles in your body from head to toe and feel their tension. Breath short, sharp breathes. You’ll notice a vast difference in your plank. This is where that mental strength comes into play. The exercise will be difficult, you can make it through. You can succeed. Focus on your breaths and remain tense. When you finish the exercise you will feel accomplished,and even better, you’ll be stronger for it, mentally and physically for completing the exercise. You used your physical strength and pushed it beyond where you normally may have given up. You used your mental strength to forge further into an uncomfortable zone and this is where strength is made.
    When you are able to combine both aspects of strength we discussed you will be able to optimize your time at the gym to build strength. The benefits of which will carry over into your performance at the gym, help you reach your goals and help you in your personal life. You will be a better version of yourself, not just for you but for your family as well.

Life Begins After Coffee

coffee

“Life begins after coffee.”
“Coffee: the gasoline of life.”
“All I need is coffee.”

There are endless quotes about coffee and its importance in our everyday life, especially in the morning.

What is your relationship with coffee?
Is it part of your morning routine?

Perhaps it gets you through the afternoon at work. Or even a casual cup when you’re out and about. Let discuss the benefits that your daily Java can have on your body.
We all know the main reason we enjoy coffee, the caffeine. Other than waking us up and getting us over that hump in the afternoon, what else can caffeine do for you? Look at any thermogenic or fat burner; what is the first ingredient? Caffeine! That’s right, your regular cup of Joe aids in fat burning.
Interestingly, regular consumption of coffee can actually help boost your memory according to a study done in Japan.
But one of the biggest benefits of coffee is that it is also rich in antioxidants. While it houses many antioxidants, it contains one specific important antioxidant called Flavonoids. These flavonoids are responsible for repairing damages done to the body from aging, poor diet and pollution. It’s even been targeted as the number one source of antioxidants in the American diet due to regular coffee consumption.
Coffee is even great for your brain. As the liquid form of caffeine, coffee can easily travel through your body and stimulate you brain, central nervous system thus stimulating cognitive function and even enhancing your mood. Other studies show a link to reducing Alzheimer’s, Type 2 Diabetes, cancers, Parkinsons, as well as heart disease!
Sounds like a miracle cure! However, with great power comes great responsibility. The way you drink your coffee can easily negate all of these benefits. If you have trained at AMP around 7am you’ll notice our daily coffee run and every single cup is black. We have even heard comments from clients “You drink it black?” Don’t be so shocked, it’s the healthiest form of coffee.
So how do you take your coffee?
If you want to enjoy the benefits above, black coffee is the optimal way to do it.  Even one teaspoon of sugar can not only negate all of the benefits, but can actually send you in the opposite direction. Let’s take the fat burning for example, once you’ve entered sugar into the equation, your blood sugar and insulin levels begin to rise with just one teaspoon! Looking at most of the varieties of coffee orders out there, they seem to be more of a dessert in a cup rather than a healthy boost. One of the biggest seasonal sellers at Starbucks is the Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte, home to 49 grams of sugar! That’s 12 sugar cubes! Maybe sugar isn’t your weakness, perhaps it’s the powdered or liquid creamers, milk or heavy cream. Introducing those products can immediately negate all the benefits coffee has to offer you.
Instead of enjoying the antioxidants, the creams, milks, powders cause inflammation in your body and cancel out all the benefits coffee gives you. There is even a new trend on the rise called “bulletproof coffee.” Using specific measurements of black coffee, grass-fed butter, and MTC oil, this recipe claims satisfy as well as kill your hunger while keeping your caffeine buzz going throughout the day. Studies proved these results inconclusive.
Your best case is to drink your coffee black even if it will take time to acquire the taste for it. The benefits surely outweigh your want for that sugar or cream fix in the morning. You can even use your coffee for a great energy boost before going to the gym. As with anything, be balanced and think of anything you are taking in as fuel for your body. Fuel your body not your soul.

 

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The More You Put In…

The More You Put In…

Nowadays it seems as if everyone wants to find the easiest and quickest way out, or to put it another way, the easiest or quickest way to lose weight. One of the biggest concerns we hear from clients and people in general is “I want to loose ‘x’ amount of weight, but I don’t want to have to do a lot of work”. Unfortunately it takes hard work paired with mental and physical dedication. The only easy route is to go chop your arm off. There, now you just lost a few pounds in about 5 seconds.
But seriously, it’s not about how easy it can be. It took time to get to where you’re starting from. It’s going to take time to get to where you want to be. Don’t set goals in your mind based upon how easy or how quick they will be to attain, you will only set yourself up for failure. Think about how much you want to invest in yourself.  The more you are willing to invest in yourself, especially in terms of time, the more likely it is that you will reach your goals and be healthier. But you need to be willing to do work.  No one has been able to get anything valuable out of life by doing nothing.  If you want to get more out of life, your exercise routine, your diet, you need to put more into it.  If you’re not willing to put in that work, you will only reap the benefits of the efforts you have put into it thus far.
Imagine you are making a stew. If you place all the ingredients on the counter and heat up the pot, did you really make the stew? No. Therefore you will not be able to reap the benefits of making a stew. There will be no meal. Now if you take those ingredients, clean them, chop them, mix them and place them in the pot, add the appropriate seasonings, watch it to make sure it doesn’t burn and constantly stir the stew; your end result will be a delicious meal that was well deserved because of the effort you put into it.
     So now is the time to look yourself in the mirror and give yourself an honest assessment. What are your goals? List them, yes actually list them. Now, how are you going to attain them? Is it your diet that you may need to gain more control over? Perhaps it’s your performance at the gym. You may be going regularly, but how is your performance once you are there? Do you just go through the motions or do you give every exercise, every rep, its due effort and attention? Remember what we said a few weeks ago about the warm-up. Be mindful and make every rep count.  Avoid just going through the exercise just to go through it. Have a purpose. Are you maybe doing too much? I know, I know, how could that ever be possible, right? But that can be a major inhibitor of the goals you are trying to reach. If you do not allow your body proper time to recover not only from your workout but from everything else you have to deal with outside of the gym, it will affect your progress. This holds true for performance as well as weight loss. Maintaining a balance between your efforts in the gym, your diet and your recovery will bring you to your goals.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that these ‘loose weight fast’ claims will bring you to where you want to be. Set realistic goals, dedicate yourself to them and put in the work needed to attain those goals and you will never be disappointed. Remember: “Sporadic efforts don’t just produce sporadic results, sometimes they produce zero results.”


Water Water Everywhere

How much water is enough?

The answer may surprise you. I took a random survey to see how much water people were actually drinking throughout the day. The answers ranged anywhere from two glasses of water to 128oz (1 gallon). However, the most interesting comments were from those who did not answer with an amount. Rather than listing an amount they simply said “not enough” or “I need more”. Being honest with yourself about your water consumption is important. Let’s look at first how much water you should be drinking.
There are many tricks to figuring out how much water is good for your body. One that was stated in the survey was dividing your body weight in half and then drinking that amount in ounces was what worked for them. Then we have the old rule of thumb was 8 glasses of water per day, or drink so that you are rarely thirsty and your urine is a pale yellow. According to The Mayo Clinic, men should be drinking a minimum of 13 cups (3 liters)and women should drink 9 cups (2.2 liters) of water per day. Take a look at your average day, do you drink that amount? Less? More?
The amounts listed are minimum requirements. Requirements? For what? Keeping a properly hydrated body is essential. The human body is composed of about 60% water. Water is needed to perform daily bodily functions such as circulation, digestion and absorption, maintenance of your body temperature, creation of saliva, tears and other needed fluids. Water also helps our skin, a vital organ, too look full and younger. As your water intake decreases your skin becomes dry and wrinkles.
Dehydration is an undesirable effect of improper water replacement. It has many physical and mental side effects. Dehydration can lead to headaches, dry lips, cracked skin, slower healing process, constipation, rapid heart beat, and in some severe cases delirium. It can even alter brain and physical functions. This change in your brain functions, leaving your mood altered and your reactions delayed. Dehydration also causes a lack in physical function. You will find that you cannot perform as well not only in your work out but also in every day tasks. With your body not functioning properly your metabolism will slow down as well as your ability to lose weight. In extreme conditions it can cause depression, shock and comas.
If the amounts listed by The Mayo Clinic are required minimums, when should we be increasing our water intake? Think about times when you find yourself looking for water. Hot environments, perhaps summer, when you’re working out, when you’re sick. All of these factors and even some diseases or ailments have us parched. Please make sure to increase the amount you drink based upon the increased intensity or duration of your workout, how long you will be exposed to the heat or sun, replenishing what you have lost while ill and, of course, see your doctor to maintain proper hydration for any condition you may have.
Here are a few tricks and reminders to help you keep you hydration levels high and stay healthy.
1). Drink a glass of water with each meal and between each meal.
2). Have a glass before, during and after you exercise.
3). Eat fruits and vegetables with high fluid content as 20% of our hydration can come from food.
4). Keep a bottle of water on you at all times, in the car, in your bag, even at your desk.
5). Drink a glass of water before you go to bed and when you wake up.

Try a new one of these suggestions every week and see how you feel better as your hydration habits get better.

 

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